Defending Christmas In An Unbelieving World, Part 4
•Why do you believe that?
•Why do you think that?
•Why would you say that?
•Where did you hear that?
•Where did you read that?
•Do you think that’s true?
Five-word questions are short, easy to remember, easy to understand, and help you discover more about the reasoning (or lack of reasoning) on the part of the unbeliever. Winning arguments is not why we defend the faith – winning souls for Christ is why.
Defense Against “Jesus Just A Man – Not Born Of A Virgin” Charge
•Question – Why do you say that?
•Answer – Because a virgin birth is physically impossible
•Question – How do you know that?
•Answer – Because it’s never happened before?
•Question – Are you sure about that?
•Answer – Absolutely sure
Once you have established what they believe and why, you can move to the next phase – presenting and defending specific Truths in Scripture. We’ll use the Virgin Birth as one example of defending a biblical Truth.
•Truth – The mother of Jesus Christ said she was a virgin when Jesus was born and her husband Joseph said it was true.
•Charge – That’s not true. The Bible is just a bunch of legends and lies filled with errors and contradictions.
•Defense – That’s not true. The Bible is the most credible Book of antiquity and can be trusted.
•Charge – Prove it.
•Defense – Thank you, I will. (You now have permission to present the Gospel)
The New Testament is a credible, believable, provable document of antiquity. We have accurate copies of the original documents that were written during the 1st century and those documents are true.
1) Accurate copies – the New Testament has more manuscripts, earlier manuscripts, and more abundantly supported manuscripts than any other ancient document.
Almost 5,700 hand-written Greek manuscripts of the New Testament
More than 19,000 manuscripts in other languages
Many of these are complete New Testaments, some are individual Books of the New Testament, some are pages of New Testament, some are fragments.
The closest contender for manuscript evidence in the ancient world is Homer’s Iliad – with 643 manuscripts.
More than 24,000 ancient manuscripts for the New Testament – 643 for the Iliad, 200 for the great Greek orator Demosthenes, and only 8 for the famous Greek historian Herodotus.
2) Earlier copies – the New Testament has manuscripts that were written soon after the originals. Nine disputed fragments that date from 50-70 AD were found with the Dead Sea Scrolls. The earliest undisputed manuscript is a segment of John 18 known as the John Rylands fragment. It was found in Egypt and has been dated by some scholars between 117-138 AD, but may be even earlier. John wrote his Gospel account in Asia Minor, but the Rylands fragment was discovered in Egypt – a demonstration of the powerful reach of the New Testament within a short time after the writing of the original. The time gap between original and 1st surviving copies is about 25 years. The time gap for Homer’s Iliad from original to 1st surviving copies is 500 years. The gap for the earliest copies of Demosthenes is 1,400 years, as are those for Herodotus.
25 years for the New Testament – 500 years for the Iliad, 1,400 years for Demosthenes and Herodotus.
3) More abundantly supported copies – the Roman emperor Diocletian tried to destroy Christianity during the great persecution of 303-311 AD. The Roman army destroyed hundreds of thousands of Christian manuscripts, but even if they had been successful, the early fathers of the Church quoted from the New Testament 36,289 times in their own writings. Those quotes would be enough to reconstruct the New Testament except for just 11 verses.
Here’s the process we’re using –
•Charge – Jesus was just a man, not born of a virgin – nothing special about Him.
•Defense – Mary was a virgin when Jesus was born. The Birth of Jesus Christ was a miracle.
•Evidence – Testimony of Mary, Joseph, Gabriel, and God.
You and I can and should use the New Testament with great confidence in defending what it teaches about Jesus Christ. THE Christmas Story found in Matthew and Luke is the TRUE story of Christmas.
Here’s another example:
Charge– The Hebrew word for “virgin” in Isaiah 7:14 means “maiden” or “young girl,” not “virgin.”
•Question – Why do you believe that?
•Answer – That’s what my rabbi says.
•Defense – The Hebrew word “almah” was often understood to mean a “virgin.”
•Evidence – Hebrew usage, translation of the Greek LXX by Hebrew scholars, and Matthew and Luke’s translations.
The Hebrew word “almah” is a feminine noun used for a girl who has reached puberty, but is still under the shielding protection of her family. Usage in the ancient Jewish culture assumed the young girl was a virgin.
The 70 Jewish scholars who translated the Hebrew Bible into Greek more than 200 years before Christ was born, chose the Greek word “parthenos” to translate the Hebrew “almah.” “Parthenos” almost always means “virgin.”
Matthew quoted Isaiah 7:14 in his Gospel account and used the word “parthenos” — So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: ‘Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,’ which is translated, ‘God with us.” (Matthew 1:22-23)
Luke used the word “parthenos” twice when referring to Mary – “Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary.” (Luke 1:26-27)
The “sign” God gave Israel was a miracle – the Virgin Birth of Jesus Christ!
“Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”